Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I have a question about Prayer Partners. I'm a newcomer to Al-anon and my sponsor has had many suggestions for me in the last few months, but none has been so difficult for me as their most recent suggestion: That I get a Prayer Partner. My sponsor defines this as another person in the program with whom I would speak by phone every morning without fail; we would pray aloud together, saying the Serenity Prayer and the Third and Seventh Step Prayers, and maybe sharing whatever spiritual concern/process we want to share.
I know this is not strictly speaking an AA question, but I thought I would ask you since all of my sponsor's other suggestions have been ones that I know come from the Big Book or from AA collected experience in general. (Make a gratitude list every night, kneel to pray morning and night, have a home group, read conference approved literature, do stepwork, have a service commitment, attend open AA meetings, etc.) But this one is new to me, and I can't figure out if it's a common thing and I've just never heard of it, or what. I've Googled this and I don't get anything even remotely conference-approved, just Christian references. And I am not a Christian, although my sponsor is, which is at times unsettling, although I try not to let it be.
I'm officially no longer in the business of interrogating her suggestions or coming up with better ones of my own; I just take them, and suck it up, and see what happens next (usually more is revealed). I still wondered nonetheless if you had heard of this before.
Thanks for your experience, strength and hope, and keep coming back!
New to Al-anon
Wow ... I ... I would have the same reaction you've described yourself as having.
I always do best when, as you mentioned, I stop questioning a sponsor's direction and just try it for a while and see what happens. (I believe that is called "being open minded and willing," actually.) You and I are totally on the same page with that.
It's just that... well ... the phrase "Prayer Partner" makes me throw up a little bit in the back of my throat.
I know! I know! I'm a terrible, close-minded person. <hangs head in shame>
But the phrase is very Evangelical. Actually, more to the point, the phrase is very Tele-evangelical.
Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole has no opinion on outside issues. Love and tolerance is our code. People of all and every and no faith can find a solution to their drinking problem in AA, and nothing that the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" suggests will be contrary to their particular creed.
I, a sober member of AA, have certain ideas associated with certain religions that make it difficult for me to be unbiased or as open minded as I like to be. I am not a spokesman for AA. No person is. The only authority on Alcoholics Anonymous is the book "Alcoholics Anonymous." (Clever title, eh?)
While I mean no offense to anyone reading this, some religions scare trouble me. Some religions have gone on the record -- quite vehemently -- in ways that make me feel threatened unwelcome, despite their claims of following spiritual teachings based on the concepts of Love. (I feel like some sects can't even make it to "Like thy neighbor as thyself" let alone Love.) So when someone in AA references anything that I identify with those religions it can be a challenge for me not to denounce judge, or react in fear, or become irrationally protective of what I think AA is and isn't. (The middle of that path is where I aim for -- it is appropriate to safeguard the Traditions and speak up for AA's singleness of purpose -- but too far to one side or the other on that road and I fear it's Bleeding Deacon territory.)
is always a rude awakening, when I consider how groups that I fear view me I call it intolerance,
but when I think about how I view them I call it intelligence.
Neat trick, huh? To be fair, it's not all in my head. There
are some parts of the world where I wouldn't get two blocks without
being stoned to death. (What is with those municipalities, where there
are always a lot of stones lying around for a stoning?) And there are some factions and zip codes here in the U.S. that might not stone me, but might not welcome me, either.
That's a big part of why the spirit of anonymity is so important in meetings. Not to hide from each other, but to create a level playing field in which we can meet (to the best of our abilities) as recovering alcoholics first, and whatever else we are second. Every other part of how we identify ourselves, the status, the divisions, the bias and assumptions about people and affiliations, can be, if not left outside, certainly kept out of the way to better practice the 12th Step with each other.
But the phrase "Prayer Partner" is, as I am familiar with it, what some Televangelists called the people who were encouraged to put one hand on the TV and pray, and the other hand on their checkbook and donate. Thus, it is hard for me at first to consider the suggestion without a lot of baggage attached to it.
To answer your question directly, no, this is not a suggestion I have heard of in my sober adventures in AA -- but I have also encountered a great variance by region as to what the fellowship suggests people try as an adjunct to getting and staying sober.
At the same time, when I take a sponsee through the Steps of AA in the Big Book and we come to the 3rd Step, as awkward as it occasionally feels we kneel down and say the prayer together out loud -- and though there may be some initial oddness, doing so often becomes something sublime. So I do, in my own way, regularly pray aloud with people.
Still... morning telephone "Prayer Partner" ... that's a tough one for me, I freely admit.
I must check my ego and my intellectual arrogance in this as well. If what your sponsor was suggesting was called "Morning Spiritual Fellowship" I would not have the same kind of reaction at all. (Though I would likely not say on a first date, "What did I do this morning? Well, after a kickass telephone prayer session with my Morning Spiritual Fellowship Partner I ... hey, wait! Where are you going?")
Sounds like your sponsor is doing the same thing, and you have a pretty open mind about it.
If it's right for you give it a go, and let me know what your experience of it is like.
Thanks for writing in and keep coming back!